Work in Sports
Time for Justice
Yankee gets another big postseason hit
Updated: Sunday October 22, 2000 8:00 PM
By Daniel G. Habib, Sports Illustrated
Forgotten because it came a good 2 1/2 hours before Jose Vizcaino's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday morning was another in a string of infrequent, but opportune postseason hits by David Justice.
The Yankees' left fielder had only one of New York's 12 hits in its 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series, his only hit of the night in five plate appearances. But like his big blows in the ALCS, it had a better time slot than Suddenly Susan.
The Yankees had cobbled together one of their only threats against Mets starter Al Leiter, who entered the sixth working a two-hit shutout. Vizcaino beat out a ground ball to short, but Chuck Knoblauch bunted badly back to the mound, and Vizcaino was forced at second. After a walk to Derek Jeter put runners on first and second, Justice delivered, extending his arms and driving a pitch down but out over the plate to the warning track in center, scoring two runs.
For the Yankees, postseason heroism from a roster newcomer, a la Cecil Fielder in 1996, is becoming old hat.
"[Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman has made a couple of key deals," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You look at Justice as the main one."
Getting two when the Yankees did was vital, since Leiter was a survivor in Game 1. He extricated himself from trouble after Justice's double by inducing Tino Martinez into a groundout and Jorge Posada into a flyout. The Yankees had put runners on first and third against Leiter in the second, but Scott Brosius' groundout to first kept them off the board.
"We had so many opportunities to score in this game," Jeter said. "It seemed like we had runners on in every inning."
Justice, the timeliness of whose hits has atoned for the Yankees' infrequency this postseason, was the ALCS MVP despite a .231 batting average and just six hits in 26 at-bats. That's because he drove in runs on four of them, including a three-run homer off Arthur Rhodes in the seventh inning of Game 6 and a two-run jack off Jose Mesa in the eighth of Game 4. Justice finished that series with a team-high eight RBI.
Although he was gone by the time the Yankees ended matters -- he was pulled for pinch-runner Clay Bellinger after he walked against Dennis Cook to lead off the 10th -- Justice opportunistically gave his club runs when he could. Touching Leiter, who has been devastating against the Yankees in the past, was a big reason New York was around to play 12.